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Friday, September 8 • 10:07am - 10:40am
User-Generated Content: An Examination of Users and the Commodification of Instagram Posts

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The goal of the experiment was to examine the impact of sponsored content on users’ perceptions of Instagram. Specifically, it analyzed if and how the trust and credibility associated with electronic word-of-mouth are affected by cues on Instagram posts to indicate they are sponsored content. The project contributes to theoretical models of persuasion knowledge in digital contexts, especially when the line between sponsored- and user-generated-content is ambiguous. The Federal Trade Commission claims that to responsibly identify content as paid advertising, only certain terms are effective. In specific, they argue that “#promoted” is not sufficiently clear. In 2016, Lord & Taylor settled in a lawsuit with the FTC. The FTC’s grievance was that Lord & Taylor did not require the influencers to disclose the company had compensated them to post the photo, and none of the posts included such a disclosure regardless of the company’s Instagram handle being present.

Thus, this experiment tested two different images with five conditions to assess whether people recognize text-based sponsorship cues on an Instagram post and how that recognition affects their perceptions of the post’s credibility and trust in the message. The experiment was implemented using an online survey tool (Qualtrics) among 358 participants recruited among students at a university in Colorado. In total, the sample size surveyed was 274. The study examines one research question with four different variables and tests three hypotheses using ANOVAs and other statistical tests. The results showed that users recognized the @company_handle as an advertisement more than #ad, #sponsored, and #promotion. The research also showed no significant difference between user’s perception of the hashtags #ad, #sponsored, and #promotion. This leads to the recommendation that a company handle should be present along with either one of these hashtags in order to improve persuasion knowledge of Instagram users.


Debra Berlyn

President, Consumer Policy Solutions


June Macon

PhD Student, University of Illinois at Chicago

Friday September 8, 2017 10:07am - 10:40am EDT
ASLS Hazel Hall - Room 221